A couple we know had recently bought a row house in the Baltimore neighborhood of Federal Hill. They were pretty excited to have a historic place, and one that was near such a hub of great restaurants, boutique stores, and outdoor areas. The rowhouse was kind of cramped, though, so they set to work remodeling it. Like most of their peers, they’re pretty big foodies, and loved to cook, so renovating their kitchen was the main focus.
One of their favorite ideas was to turn a closet right off the kitchen into a walk-in pantry. This gave them a lot of room, and allowed them to remove cabinets in the kitchen and install a wine fridge, a TV, and other amenities of a luxury kitchen. Unfortunately, the closet shelves were just that: shelves, making the walk-in pantry basically a glorified cabinet, and while it cleared space, it didn’t help them get much more organized.
That’s really the big problem with some walk-in pantries: they don’t offer much in the way of storage ideas, except for shelves. Even organized people, like our couple, end up misplacing things, putting items in without order, and setting up a haphazard “system” (the tomato paste should always be hidden behind the bag of flour, right?). That’s why a custom organized walk-in pantry can be the perfect capstone to any kitchen renovation. After all, if you have to sort through a jumbled shelf of spices just to find the cardamom, you may decide to just order in.
Low Cost, High Value
A walk-in pantry is one of those renovations that serves a dual purpose. It makes your life much better and more organized in the now, and helps with a home’s future retail value. A renovated kitchen can expect to recoup up to 61% of its value if you sell your home. That takes into account cool items like kitchen islands and new countertops, but in the end, those lose more relative value than an organized walk-in pantry.
There’s a reason for this. New appliances and countertops are great if you are just about to sell your house, or are doing a fix-and-flip. They are, of course, also fantastic for you and your family to enjoy if you live in the house a long time. But during that time, countertops get beat up. Stuff gets spilled on them. Chips and cracks form. They’re the mark of a long and food-filled life, but during that time, ROI goes down. As for appliances, the longer you live with them, the less new they are. They aren’t as advanced, and maybe have gone completely out of style. Have you ever walked into a home with a microwave from the 1960s, all clunky with a knob dial? That was new and fresh at one point, too.
A walk-in pantry, though, is always a boon for a kitchen. Some houses already have them. Some people, like our couple, appropriate another closet for a pantry. Some build a pantry into an adjoining room, bumping a wall back so the pantry extends into another space (if you do this, don’t take square footage from a bedroom—smaller bedrooms are almost a guaranteed retail value loser). Some just build a pantry from scratch. Regardless of how your walk-in pantry is formed, though, it needs to be organized.
An Organized Pantry Makes Cooking Easy
It is, of course, great to know that you can potentially make money back on a custom pantry, but that’s not the main reason to get one if you are planning to stay at your house for at least a few years. The main reason is that it makes life easier... because it makes cooking easier.
A recent study from Bosch showed that “mess” and “time” were two of the biggest reasons people in America didn’t like to cook. 21% said that they didn’t have time, and 25% said they can’t stand the mess. Not knowing how was an answer for 28% of respondents. A full 66% complained that grocery shopping took up too much time (respondents were allowed to give more than one answer).
A walk-in pantry can’t cure all of these. But it helps them all, even a little.
Cooking is too messy! It’s true that a well-organized walk-in pantry can’t keep you from spilling sauce on the stove, but it can help you organize your cooking process better. Knowing where everything is, and having easy access to it, keeps you from sorting through a cupboard with flour-coated hands or digging frantically through a spice drawer at the last second while pots are bubbling over.
Cooking takes up too much time! Making a great meal can take a while, it is true. But it is also true that a lot of that is prep work, and a lot of prep work comes from getting everything ready. We’ve found that if we aren’t searching around in cabinets or rooting through disorganized pantries, we can cut our time down considerably.
Grocery shopping takes up too much time! If we were able to teach everyone in America how to use the self-serve checkout machines, we would. But in the absence of that, having an organized kitchen system lets you keep better track of your groceries, letting you know what you have and what you need, which makes shopping so much easier. Think of it like this: if you knew you had that can of beans at home, you wouldn’t go up and down every aisle looking for it, and if you didn’t need to buy it, you could have used that ‘15 Items or Less’ express lane, instead of the one that apparently had a sign saying “Pay Here by Checks or Searching Endlessly for Exact Change.”
I don’t know how to cook! We’re no Giada, of course, and can’t teach you how to make a meal. But we do know that a lot of the obstacles to cooking come from getting started. Being able to easily say “I have X, Y, and Z right here” is a great first step to getting over the hump. A lot of “I don’t know how” comes from “it’s too much trouble and I don’t want to fail.” Being organized helps lower the chance of failure. Also, it’s ok to make a bad meal. It’s how you learn (and incidentally how your dog gets fed). But if you prefer guidance, you now have space to store cookbooks (or hide them away so guests assume you’re a natural)!
Having an organized walk-in pantry doesn’t just improve the value of your house; it can improve the quality of your life. At Closet America, we do custom measurements of your pantry, work with you to decide how best to organize what you want to store, and install it quickly and professionally. Our clients see their pantries completely changed with multi-tiered lazy susans and chrome baskets for fruit, vegetables, and more. We’re also proud to offer pull-out wine and spice racks, to make locating the right item easy. Custom shelving is designed to fit what you need to store in intuitive and accessible ways. It’s your pantry. We just design it to work for you. In the end, it’s one of the most important pieces for getting the most out of your kitchen.
Closet America is the D.C. area’s leading creator of custom-made designer closet, office, garage, and pantry storage spaces. Our experienced team of designers and engineers help create unique solutions that are customized with your needs in mind. Let us help you get your life more organized. Connect with us today to learn more!